Tommy Weir: Take personal growth seriously and nurture it
Confused as to why his executive team did not take their personal growth as seriously as he did his own, I listened to a chief executive outline a plan to tackle this.
“I am going to have each of my direct reports select a one-week executive education programme that is of interest to them,” he announced. “And I am going to go with each one.”
So you plan to spend six weeks away attending programmes chosen by someone else?
His words provoked so many questions, with the top being: how could a chief executive be away from work for six weeks attending programmes? And what would he gain from each?
Then he continued to explain why he knew this was the right action. Half of his executive team was newly appointed, joining in the past year. So he figured spending a week away learning something new together would provide a great opportunity to learn about each other.
Attending side by side would allow them to discuss how they are going to implement what is learnt when they return to headquarters. While I still had questions in my mind, this was beginning to make sense.
Too often leaders send their employees off for training without even knowing the topic of study. And then, even worse, they don’t inquire about what was learnt when the employee returns to work, which usually means very little gets implemented.
Just as his decision is sending a huge message to us in the wider business community, he knew it would make a demonstrable statement in his own company that learning is important.
Sure, there may be other ways to go about accomplishing his goal such as leading his team to prioritise their development. But let’s not become distracted and lose focus on the goal and his challenge to prioritise helping others grow.
He is taking responsibility for others’ personal growth, which is what a father would do and leaders should do.
Speaking of fathers, a few days after listening to this CEO share his plan to make personal growth a priority, a friend shared over lunch what two leading families in Saudi Arabia are doing. I’ve since learnt that other merchant families follow the same practice. These patriarchs are obsessed that their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews have a passion for personal growth and develop into future business leaders.
I realise this is an extreme example; these families have hired life coaches and invest in bringing world-renowned speakers to shape the next generation. When this was shared with me, it really made me sit back and consider how many leaders actively invest in the next generation of leaders in their business. It would be encouraging to hear of more companies making personal development a priority, even for their existing leaders.
Personal growth is all about self-improvement by undertaking activities that improve your awareness, capability and belief. You could call it building self-efficacy. Who would argue against improving your talent, building on your strengths to increase the chances of you fulfilling your full potential? This idea has worldwide acceptance even though the practice of it does not.
This brings us back to the chief executive’s original concern, when he commented that his leaders were not taking their personal growth seriously enough and making it a priority. If it is so widely accepted, then why aren’t leaders obsessed with it?
Preaching about it from a soapbox in the corridors of the office will have only a minimal impact. The best way to build this culture is to lead by example. What are your personal growth goals and what are you actually doing about it? To make personal development a priority in your team, then you need to be able to answer this. More than answer it, you need to share it with your team.
But this by itself will not be enough. The CEO I have been writing about regularly shares with his team what he is learning. So much so that they even comment he is always reading and trying to grow. Unfortunately good habits do not naturally rub off on others.
As a leader you need to work to help others with their personal growth.
The best way to help someone grow is to grow together. The idea of helping people with their development is at the heartbeat of leadership success.
Tommy Weir is a leadership adviser and author of 10 Tips for Leading in the Middle East and other leadership writings. Follow him on Twitter: @tommyweir
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Published: May 11, 2014 04:00 AM